Dear Roker Report,
Sunderland Til I Die was such a rollercoaster of a series, and what a wonderful experience for us overseas supporters. I felt like I was there, finally. I had seen all those matches streamed online, but watching the goals go in (both ends unfortunately) made me feel it again. I found myself in joyous outburst just the same as watching Asoro, Honeyman, Fletcher, and Williams score live.
It’s interesting that the producers were to make a bid for the club while the series was still in the making; it’s worthy to note they completely omitted that from their documentary. None of the other bidders would’ve known more about the inner workings of the club at the time.
While the series was chock full of interesting characters (how did Watmore and Gooch not get screen time btw?), the two most interesting for me were also the most controversial: Martin Bain and Jack Rodwell. They make for an intriguing comparison.
They were both brought on and offered deals when SAFC was in a time of plenty, and, given the salaries they commanded, their own careers were on the up as well. They were also both still there collecting in the mean time. This meant they were both among the highest paid members of a club struggling to right itself financially and otherwise.
I believe, however, we learn more of them by a look at their differences. We don’t know if Bain took any sort of paycut when we were relegated. We do know that Rodwell did not. Throughout the series we see Bain working diligently for the club and being a source of belief even when most, supporters included, seemed to have given up. Rodwell presumably fought for a place in the team at some point, but definitely had stopped caring by the time the cameras were on him. Bain was candid throughout series with no other club member spending more time with the camera in the resulting footage; second only to the supporters as protagonist. Rodwell had only two lines which he’d rather not have been included; he seemed rightly ashamed of himself.
My opinion of Bain did change as a result of this series. I was sucked into the group-think of scapegoating. After being presented with this firsthand information, even if you disagree with his decisions, you can’t say he didn’t give his best. Further I’d say nearly all (probably actually all) of his critics have risked and done less for the club. Bain was brought in on big money because that’s how good he was at his job. Sunderland didn’t go down because of Bain. We likely would’ve gone down earlier without him. He’s a convenient scapegoat for those who are either too lazy or simple to comprehend complex issues.
My opinion about Rodwell did not change. He is a selfish footballer in a world of many like him. The only difference between him and another obviously selfish player, Grabban, is that Grabban scores goals (I look forward to the day Grabban’s arrogance does him in, which it will). Rodwell found himself in a situation where his selfishness was forced on stage, though I’d guess he had no idea how wide the audience would be in the end. It’s about more than talent alone isn’t it? I wouldn’t want Rodwell on my Sunday league team. How can anyone pay him to play, or pay to watch him?
Finally an unrelated note, but the viewing was too horrid to ignore: the drunken fool at the end of episode 7 who insulted Chris Coleman is an embarrassment to the people of Sunderland. Coleman was better than the club deserved at that time and did all he could to reverse an ultimately irreversible momentum. That “supporter” should not be allowed into the stadium or to show his face in town unchallenged for that matter; he’s represented Mackem’s as regressive lifeforms to the world.
Sentence him to transportation... to Newcastle.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: Some very interesting points you make there Jesse, though I’d like to pick on one that I hadn’t actually thought about until you said it just there!
Lynden Gooch - seems like a bit of an opportunity missed, doesn’t it, when you consider this series was opening up the club to a worldwide audience and in particular, the American audience. In Gooch, Sunderland have a top-quality youth product who has probably the most interesting background of any of the current players. It would have been nice to hear them highlight and tell his story about how the American lad came to and fell in love with Sunderland - perhaps that’s a story best reserved for the more feel-good series 2!